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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Multicultural Melbourne is moving!!!!

Hello wonderful, lovely readers!!!

Just a quick message to say that Multicultural Melbourne has moved to WordPress! I've decided to do this in order to give myself some more options in terms of my blog and it's layout, making it easier to use, and also so that I can have my own domain. I'm still learning the ropes, but I think I'm pretty much set up and ready to go! 

So, please follow me over to

See you there :)

Jess xo

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Apologies for the hiatus!

Hey there all, 

This (unfortunately) is neither a review nor a recipe. Just an apology for not having put anything new up for the last week - I'm in the middle of training for my new job and also fixing up my blog and preparing to move it to WordPress! So, bear with me, and I'll have some new stuff up and running on the weekend!

And to keep you interested until then, here's what's coming... :)

Monday, 15 August 2011

Scarf Community Dinner

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Scarf Community

A few months ago, I heard about a fabulous little Melbourne organisation called "Scarf Community." For those of who you don't know about this brilliant organisation, let me tell you a little bit about it... Scarf provides hands on hospitality training to marginalised youth who might not otherwise be able to afford or get access to training or employment. They "borrow" restaurants around Melbourne from some very kind, generous owners who are willing to lend their venues to the Scarf crew on Monday nights (the traditional hospitality night off) for a 10 week period, over which the students are able to hone their skills in providing a real dinner service to real, paying customers, while being helped along by their mentors.

The mentors involved in Scarf are all people who currently work in the hospitality industry, and volunteer their time to guide their charges along their way, providing them with both industry knowledge and connections. Upon finding out about this amazing organisation, I knew I had to get involved, and immediately emailed to arrange a dinner booking.

We arrived at Mixed Business (486 Queen's Parade, Clifton Hill) at 8:30pm on a cold, Melbourne night for our dinner booking, and wondered on in just as a large group was leaving, so we stood around for a minute or two before someone realised we weren't with the departing bunch. We were quickly shown to our seats, just by the bar/counter.

Our table was set with an eclectic mix of plates and knitted napkin holders, which I loved - it had a very homely, welcoming feel.

After a few minutes, our wonderful waiter took our drink order, and then presented us with our menus. A two-course set menu for $35, we had the choice between three entrees and three mains.

With our orders placed, we waited another five minutes or so before our waiter came back with some bread and olive oil for us... great way to get our hunger happening!

We waited only another five or ten minutes before our entrees came out. Sous-Jeff ordered the potato, leek and bacon soup with crispy parmesan, and I ordered the risotto with roasted salmon, basil, fetta, lime and spinach.

Sous-Jeff enjoyed his soup, especially the crispy parmesan. It tasted like a beautiful, comforting, home cooked meal, which was perfect for the freezing cold night.

Potato, leek and bacon soup with crispy parmesan.

I'm actually not at all a salmon eater, but the combination of lime, fetta and spinach made me decide to give the risotto a try. I am soooo glad I did! Although there wasn't a strong fetta or lime flavour, it was creamy and the salmon was perfectly cooked. I really enjoyed this dish, even more so because I was so apprehensive about it!

Risotto with roasted salmon, basil, fetta, lime and spinach.

Next out were our mains. Sous-Jeff went with the braised chicken with fig and pomegranate molasses and cous cous, and I went with the Osso Bucco Milanese.

The chicken wasn't at all what we'd expected - we thought it might come out as a chicken breast or thigh covered in sticky, fruity sauce, on a bed of cous cous. What Sous-Jeff had placed in front of him instead was a stew-type bowl of chicken with a bowl of cous cous on the side. The chicken had a strong cinnamon flavour and was well cooked, and again Sous-Jeff felt like he was eating a beautifully home cooked meal.

Braised chicken with fig and pomegranate molasses and cous cous

My Osso Bucco had high standards to live up to, and it didn't disappoint. The veal was so tender and soft, it just fell off the bone. The sauce was delicious too, but lacked a flavour punch - it was just a bit under seasoned.

Osso Bucco Milanese

With dinner done and dishes cleared, we were handed a dessert menu. Well, I just can't say no to dessert, so we decided upon a piece of cake and a shared plate of home made sweets.

The raspberry cake was beautifully presented, but unfortunately for me, had quite a bit of cinnamon in it. Sous-Jeff was happy to capitalise on my misfortune and gladly polished it off! Thankfully, he left the berry compote for me, which went down very, very nicely with the small bowl of vanilla ice cream that was served with it. At an additional $12.00 for the cake, we did however feel like it really wasn't very good value for money.

Raspberry cake, $12.00

The plate of homemade sweets was gorgeous! A pink little meringue (which tasted a little like rosewater...), a yo-yo with a creamy, sugary filling, and a delicious little chocolate chip cookie all disappeared in the blink of an eye, and they were all beautiful! Perfect way to finish a meal, and at only $2.00 for the plate, it was a winner for us!

Plate of homemade sweets, $2.00

After dinner, I met up with the lovely Jess, who is one of the mentors and leaders at Scarf. She showed me into the kitchen, where our wonderful waiter was preparing to take out his next round of dishes. We also said hello to some of the other happy faces around the Scarf kitchen, the wonderful people who brought us our fantastic meal.

Our receipt for dinner, along with some Scarf info and business cards came out to our table in this gorgeous little, homemade pocket, which pretty much summed up our evening; warm, comfortable, homely.

It was a fantastic evening, and I really was impressed by the level of quality food and service provided by the Scarf team, remembering that they're not yet professionals. It truly is a credit to the hard work put in by the wonderful volunteers and students, and I was so happy to have the opportunity to support such a fantastic cause. If you haven't yet had the pleasure, I can't recommend attending highly enough. A lot of hard work, care and love went into our meal, and it was evident on everyone's faces that both the diners and the "staff" were truly appreciative of the opportunity. Our waiter, in particular, was a perfect gentleman; we were greeted upon arriving, farewelled upon leaving, and approached with a smile throughout the entire evening. A huuuuge thanks must go to him for making our night so lovely :)

If you'd like to support this wonderful organisation, a 2 course set menu dinner will only cost you $35.00 per person, with a range of beer, wine and soft drinks, as well as desserts available to you. 

Email Jess at or call on 0488 777 527 to make a booking!

 Would rate it 7 out of 10.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Nonna Gemma's Veal Scallopine

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 Multicultural Inspiration from... Italy

It's common knowledge in my family that mum's mum, Nonna Gemma (Nonna is Italian for grandmother) is bloody fantastic in the kitchen. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve following Nonna around the Preston Market to gather all of our ingredients, then going back to her house, putting on an over-sized apron, and helping her make a big fat pot of risotto, or crostoli (traditional Northern Italian biscuits), with Nonno (grandfather) watching on and telling us we weren't doing it properly. Unfortunately for me though, Nonna rarely records any of her culinary genius on paper - she just knows what to do. So, you can imagine my excitement when one of Nonna's recipes was bestowed upon me at my Kitchen Tea party a month before our wedding last year! And not just any recipe - one of my favourites; Nonna's veal scalopine!

Luckily for me, I'm getting much better at cooking by instinct, because Nonna's recipes have absolutely no quantities or measurements. They're also written completely in Italian. Poor Sous-Jeff hasn't the foggiest idea what he was looking at when I got ready to cook this up. Thankfully, I understood every word!

My very treasured recipe is for veal scalopine - veal pieces coated in flour, and grilled in a fry pan with garlic, olive oil, mushrooms and white wine. I also like to serve it with polenta, because polenta brings back some of my most comforting and loving childhood memories :) And I threw some roast veggies in for the healthiness factor! Given that this recipe isn't technically a recipe, I haven't listen everything I did and used... but here's how it turned out...

And to my utter and complete joy, it tasted just like Nonna's!! I guess I must have been paying more attention than I thought when I used to watch her make it! If only I'd recorded how much of everything I'd used... must make it again!

And while I took a break in typing this up to grab some lunch, Kitchen Bug decided he'd keep my seat warm and try to contribute a bit too...

Over to you guys... do you have a famous family recipe that you've been able to successfully recreate? Or a pet who likes to help you blog?!

Melbourne Foodie Day Part 3: HuTong Dumpling Bar, Bar Americano & Mitre Tavern

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 Multicultural Cuisine of... China... & pub life

Content after our tapas at Movida, but certainly not yet full, we continued on down to our next stop. Neither Sous-Jeff or I are big Chinese food eaters, but I've heard only good things about HuTong, and I developed a bit of a crush on dumplings since trying the pork gyoza at Wabi Sabi a while ago. So, we decide it's probably time for us to give it a try!

HuTong Dumpling Bar
14 - 16 Market Lane,
(03) 9650 8128
Visit Website

We knew Market Lane sounded familiar for a reason, but until we arrived, we couldn't work out why - because it's the home of Hofbrauhaus, the German restaurant that was gutted by a fire a little while ago. It's a family favourite, and I can't wait to get back in and review their magnificent Schweizer Schnitzel for you guys when they get back up and running! Anyhow, we're now in recognisable territory, and upon seeing the large amount of people inside, are put a little more at ease going into this very unfamiliar culinary territory.

The first thing we notice as we come in from the bitter Melbourne cold is how warm and cosy it is inside! Lovely! We were immediately asked if we had booked, and we had not. We were told it might be quite a wait, but as luck had it, a table cleared out within a minute of arriving, and it went straight to us! The Universe wanted us to have dumplings, and so we would. It's also very busy, with an excited, content atmosphere. You can tell by the looks on the faces of HuTong's customers that they were happy with what was in front of them. I also immediately fell in love with the big window that allowed me to see into the kitchen; it was absolutely mesmerising to see just how quickly the chefs worked, folding each dumpling in a perfectly uniformed manner.

Finally taking my eyes off the fancy finger work in the kitchen, it was time to check out the menu. We'd intended to just grab the one lot of dumplings to share, but upon checking out the menu, we decide to grab two - the boiled spinach dumplings, and the pan fried dumplings.

While waiting for our dumplings to grace our table, we started checking out our condiments...

... and to Sous-Jeff's delight, uncovered a pot of chilli! Fantastic!

And for me, the slightly plainer and simpler soy sauce. Thank goodness!

Just as I was starting to panic about the fact that I'd never eaten traditional Chinese dumplings before and had absolutely NO idea how to eat them in an appropriate and non-offensive manner, Sous-Jeff passed this to me across the table - a step-by-step guide! Ahhh, relief!

With instructions studied and a vague understanding on what to do, our first lot of dumplings arrive - the boiled spinach dumplings.

Spinach dumplings, $6.80 (6 pieces)

Following my instructions to the letter, I carefully managed to pick up my first dumpling with my chopsticks and dunked it into my little bowl of soy sauce.

Then, onto my little ceramic spoon it went, and down the hatch!

I really loved these dumplings - they were fairly plain and simple, which was probably good for me being a relative dumpling novice. They were certainly packed full of spinach, as promised, and were encased in a nice soft shell.

Next out were the pan fried dumplings, beautifully shaped and presented on... actually, I have no idea what so ever what it was, but it was fried and edible and delicious!

Pan fried dumplings, $12.80 (8 pieces)

Apart from burning off the top layer of my tongue upon biting into a wayyyyy too hot dumpling first up, these were amazing. Absolutely loved them, and want more now that I'm just looking at them. Beautifully balanced mix of pork and ginger, and they had a just crispy bottom from being pan fried. LOVED!

After hearing so much about HuTong and going in as a Chinese food/dumpling virgin, I was not let down. They were delicious and well priced, and I will definitely be returning for more.

 Would rate it 8 out of 10.

HuTong Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

We left HuTong very content and full and in need of a beverage. So, we decided to check out the relatively new kid on the block, Bar Americano. A little bar occupying the site of the former Pushka bar and the brain child of the gents behind Der Raum, it's been promised to be the next big thing.

Bar Americano
20 Presgrace Place,
Visit Website

Out around the back of Bar Americano

Frankly, I was very underwhelmed. It wasn't because of the small, dark space. It was the service and the general atmosphere. I don't like to generalise, but the crowd really did come across as an uppity bunch. I certainly wasn't dressed in designer garb, but it seemed to offend the patrons who looked me up and down with upturned noses. The bartender walked over to us, as if not taking us seriously in the slightest (you know that look that teenagers who walk into a pub get? That, "I know you can't actually afford or legally buy anything in here so I won't waste my time helping you"? Yeah, that was the look we got), leant a menu up on the bar against the wall and gave us a "these are the cocktails," before walking back to the bar. We left immediately. The next big thing it may be, but that's not how we roll. 

 Would rate it 2 out of 10.

Bar Americano on Urbanspoon

Frustrated and in even more need of a drink, we decided to start walking to our final destination of La Belle Miette, and we decided to just walk into the first bar we stumbled across. After a bit of a walk, we stumbled upon another lane way, which seemed to lead to yet another lane way! Not sure why, but I had a feeling we might have a decent find, so off I went, with Sous-Jeff on my tail saying "but do you know what's down here? Is there anything?" "Dunno, let's find out!"

And we stumbled upon what Sous-Jeff has dubbed the greatest pub in the Melbourne CBD: The Mitre Tavern.

Mitre Tavern
5 Bank Place,
(03) 9670 5644
Visit Website

A very traditionally English style pub, it popped up at just the right time. It didn't look like it'd belong - an old pub in the middle of the city, on a Saturday afternoon, and it was dead quiet. There were dozens of tables outside under cover, with those awesome outdoor heaters which was keeping it all toasty warm, even outside as the rain started to fall. Sous-Jeff looked like he'd found the holy grail, after being dragged around all day in search of food. We grabbed some beer and vodka, and sat down to relax and digest.

Looking back up the street, we could see the bright red doors of Cafe Vue on Little Collins St, but we couldn't believe how well hidden it was! The food menu looked great, and they had a steakhouse attached as well, with some amazing smells wafting out through the windows.

While we didn't actually eat anything there, it was a fantastic pub, and we can't wait to get back in for a dinner and a big night with our friends! Based on our beverage experience (without food) alone...

 Would rate it 8 out of 10.

Anyway, it was getting dark, the rain heavier, and our legs tired, so we decided to wrap it up and get those macarons. Unfortunately when we arrived at La Belle Miette, they were sold out. Heartbroken. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful husband who took me back to the train station via Little Cupcakes - yes, I got another two, don't judge me!

One of my favourite things to do on a day off is to explore the little hidden gems of Melbourne, and today was certainly another win!

Over to you guys - where are your favourite hole-in-the-wall places?!